Do You Know Your Punctuation?

Posted September 22, 2022 by Cathy Stefanec Ogren
Categories: National Punctuation Day

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Saturday, September 24th is National Punctuation Day.

Here are some quick thoughts on punctuation.

Fourteen punctuation marks can make their appearance in writing. There’s the period, question mark, exclamation point, comma, colon, semicolon, quotation mark, dash, hyphen, apostrophe, brackets, braces, parentheses, and ellipsis.

What are the three commonly used punctuation marks?

“Me! Me!” shouts the exclamation point.

“What about me? asks the question mark.

The period declares. “It’s me.”

All three of these characters are right on the mark.

Don’t throw a punctuation mark anywhere you want it. If you put it in the wrong place, you can totally change the meaning of a sentence.

Case in point:

We are going to learn how to cut and paste children.

Cut it out! You would never cut and paste children.

The correct way to write this:  We are going to learn how to cut and paste, children. Don’t forget that comma.

And what about those tricky apostrophes in contractions and possessives? Know where to put them!

Contractions:

Its or It’s                     The flower is in its vase.        It’s a glass vase.        

Your or You’re           Is your name Lily?                 You’re the winner.                                                                

There or They’re         The team is over there.      They’re sitting on the bleachers.

Possessives:

Cathy’s hair is strawberry blond.

I love children’s books.

The team’s uniforms arrived.

All fourteen punctuation marks are vying for your attention. Sometimes they can be confusing, but don’t let them stump you. You can do it.

Show your style on National Punctuation Day.

On your mark. Get set. Go!

Some fun books.

Punctuation Takes a Vacation written by Robin Pulver and illustrated by Lynn Rowe Reed, Holiday House, 2004

Punctuation Celebration written by Elsa Knight Bruno and illustrated by Jenny Whitehead, Square Fish, 2012

The Tide Pool Waits – Gifts of Nature

Posted September 15, 2022 by Cathy Stefanec Ogren
Categories: Nonfiction Picture Books

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For me, the ocean, rocks, and shore are calming. The sound of the waves, the feel of the sand, and the smell of the ocean bring a sense of beauty and peace.

The Tide Pool Waits is a lyrical telling of how nature creates tide pools, leaving ocean creatures behind to wait patiently for the high tide to return them to the ocean.

The Tide Pool Waits written by Candace Fleming and illustrated by Amy Hevron, Neal Porter Books, 2022

The text begins. “The waves… CR-A-A-A-A-SH in. And then…cr-e-e-e-e-p out.” Water collects in pools and on rocky shores. The morning sun rises, and the day begins. Caught in the tide pools and between the rocks on the shore are ocean creatures that are left behind as the tide goes out. Mussels, turban snails, and limpets are revealed. An octopus hides in between the rocks. As the day passes. They wait. Each page turn reveals more surprises that can be found under rocks, in the seaweed, and buried in the sand. They all wait. They wait for the earth, the moon, the sun, and the wind to do what it naturally does. And when the right time comes, waves crash onto the shore. More and more water creeps in and gets higher and higher, covering the shore and the rocks. Those caught in tide pools and rocks are now free to return to their natural habitat.

Along with Amy Hevron’s vibrant illustrations, Candace Fleming’s use of alliteration and onomatopoeia poetically describe what can be seen and heard. Together, they magically pull readers into the story of ocean tides and tide pools. Detailed back matter tells what can be found in the tide pools and where the different ocean creatures live. I highly recommend this book for information and pure enjoyment.

The Aftermath of a Holiday Weekend

Posted September 8, 2022 by Cathy Stefanec Ogren
Categories: Life and Family

Tags: , , , ,

This past weekend we welcomed my daughter’s family to celebrate the last holiday of summer.

There were eight humans and one dog in our home. We spent much of the weekend talking over noisy youngsters and cautiously walking to avoid stepping on a child, toy, or dog. In between times, we ate. We played cornhole. We watched a movie with the kids. We read picture books. We played tea party. We ran around outside. And we ate some more. We enjoyed the first Wisconsin Badger game together with our newest Badger fan. And we wished his sisters well as they anticipated the first day of school. After we said our goodbyes, there was the cleanup – laundry, putting toys away, putting the furniture back in place, and exhaustion.

This brings me to my blog today. Having a Monday holiday and weekend guests totally threw me off my schedule. This morning, I suddenly realized it was my posting day. My brain is still trying to catch up with the days of the week. So, this is it, my friends. Now it’s time to look at my calendar to see what else I’ve missed.

Until next Thursday, enjoy every day to its fullest!  

Celebrating Unusual Days

Posted September 1, 2022 by Cathy Stefanec Ogren
Categories: Picture Books, Special Days

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Each month is filled with unusual days to celebrate for one reason or another. Today happens to be Random Acts of Kindness Day and World Letter Writing Day.

For me, these two days are compatible. When a written card or letter from a friend randomly shows up in the mail, it’s a treat. To sit down and hold a card or stationery in my hands and read what is written is a special gift. Whether it’s good news, sad news, or thinking of you, the written note is an act of kindness from someone who cares enough about me to take the time to handwrite it.

So today, think about what random acts of kindness or letter-writing ideas you have in mind. Then do it!

Kindness begins at home. Here are some books to share with your children.

Be KInd written by Pat Zietlow Miller and illustrated by Jen Hill, Roaring Book Press, 2018.

Each Kindness written by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by E.B. Lewis, Nancy Paulsen Books, 2012

The Little Things written by Christian Trimmer and illustrated by Kaylani Juanita, Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2021

Some of My Favorite PB Books for August

Posted August 25, 2022 by Cathy Stefanec Ogren
Categories: Picture Book Review

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August has been a busy month for me with birthdays and anniversaries to celebrate.

But now I’d like to celebrate some of the picture books I enjoyed during the month of August.

Capybara is Friends with Everyone written and illustrated by Maddie Frost, HarperCollins, 2022

Capybara has friends – lots of friends. He goes above and beyond to be a friend. Anything a friend wants he will do. Then Capybara meets Sloth. He tries everything to please Sloth, but he gets no reaction. Capybara finally begs Sloth to be his friend. Still nothing. Exhausted, Capybara falls asleep. When he wakes, Sloth is there to play a friend song on his kazoo. And Capybara adds one more friend to his list. The last few pages of the book are filled with suggestions on how to be a good friend. Something that is important for all of us to keep in mind.

The Piano written by Chari Smith and illustrated by Elle Smith, Black Rose Writing, 2022.

This is a sweet story of a bond between a young girl, Katie, learning to play the upright piano that has been moved into her house. The moment the girl presses middle C the piano knows it’s home. As the years pass, the love and admiration felt between the piano and the girl grows, and those feelings are eventually passed on to others. If you’re a piano lover, you’ll enjoy this.

Sylvie written by Jean Reidy and illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins, Antheneum Books for Young Readers, 2022

Sylvie is a spider. She keeps herself well hidden because “not everyone appreciates a spider who calls attention to herself.” While Sylvie keeps herself out of sight, she keeps a close eye on “her people” – the painter, the proper lady, the mindful man, and the brave little girl with the brave little tortoise. Day and night, Sylvie makes sure that her people and things are just so until the day things don’t seem that way. Sylvie makes a huge decision. That is the day she must call attention to herself. The painter, the lady, the man, and the little girl with the tortoise follow her to the top of the apartment building where Sylvie has a plan to make everyone just right. What is that plan? Read this delightful book to find out.

The BIG Scream written by Kirsti Call and illustrated by Denis Angelov, Little Simon, 2022

This is board book is a scream! It’s a perfect teaching tool for little ones who are prone to tantrums and how to calm themselves when in that situation. My thoughts: Perfect rhyme. Fast pace. Lots of fun. Good results.

Norton and the Bear written and illustrated by Gabriel Evans, Berbay Publishing, 2022

Norton dresses in a way that makes him feel unique. But when Bear begins to copy his style, Norton is upset. No matter what Norton does Bear copies him until…” Stop copying me!” cries Norton. Bear leaves Norton, saying he will find his own style which leaves Norton feeling bad he was unkind. Bear returns wearing a stylish cape. Norton likes what he sees and is surprised when Bear presents him with a similar cape. A lighthearted book about understanding that copying someone can be a compliment, and you can look identical on the outside but be uniquely different on the inside.

Monsters in the Briny written by Lynn Becker and illustrated by Scott Brundage, Sleeping Bear Press, 2022

This rollicking rhyming book is an amusing seafaring tale that goes along with the sea shanty tune, “What Do You Do With a…Sailor.” Colorful illustrations fill the pages, and the back matter features information about interesting and unusual sea creatures.

Go ahead. Read one of these books. Read them all. Share and enjoy!

Leftover Vacation Memories

Posted August 18, 2022 by Cathy Stefanec Ogren
Categories: Life and Family

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. So, instead of telling you more about our big family vacation, I’ll show you memories with photos.

Nature

Kid Activities

Puzzled?

Adult Activities

The long Trip Home

Alas, the GPS rerouted us to a place we didn’t want to go. After rerouting ourselves, we still had many miles to go through Sunday evening traffic. Luckily, a tired and weary crew made it home safely to dream about our fantastic family vacation.

If anyone in your family has an obsession with the ocean, tide pools, and ocean creatures, here is a book you must see.

The Tide Pool Waits written by Candace Fleming and illustrated by Amy Hevron, Neal Porter Books, 2022.

The Story of a Family Vacation

Posted August 11, 2022 by Cathy Stefanec Ogren
Categories: Life and Family

Tags: , , , , ,

The story begins in the mid-1980s. My father, who was an only child, wanted me, my brother, two sisters, and our families to remain close. It was challenging since we lived in different states. To make this happen, my father and mother decided to rent a house on Hilton Head Island and invite everyone to join them for a week’s vacation. Each family oversaw an evening meal during the week. Dinner was a time when everyone – young and old – came together at the table for conversation and lots of laughter. For fourteen summers, our family spent quality time together. Our families grew, and we remained close. As the years passed, it became too difficult for our parents to travel. The summer of 2001 was our last Hilton Head family vacation.

Sadly, our parents are now gone. Over the years, we have all reminisced about our summers together and toyed with the idea of doing it again. Finally, my daughter took charge. For almost a year, she planned. She polled family members, searched for a rental home, and asked for input. The cost of the rental home was equally divided among each family member. Only my niece and her husband were unable to come. On July 9th, twenty-four family members converged on the home of choice. The epic family vacation began.

The Family: 17 Adults, and 7 Children, coming from CO, FL, MA, NH, TX, IL, and Germany

That evening, for the first time in twenty-one years, we gathered around an enormous dining room table for fried grouper and red snapper. My brother, sisters, and I, now the older generation, said a blessing and gave a special toast to our parents.

Gathering before dinner.

The dinner table.

More pictures of our week together.

Nature

Kid Activities

Adult Activities

Our week passed quickly, filled with conversation, noise, laughter, and more noise. Cousins met cousins and made new friends. Adults reconnected and caught up with each other. Hopefully, this family tradition will continue so the younger generation remains as close as we have. It would be a great tribute to our parents. A special shout-out goes to our daughter for making our vacation a truly memorable one.

Our Family Photo

One of my favorite picture books that reminds me of our time together.

The Relatives Came written by Cynthia Ryland and illustrated by Stephen Gammell, Antheneum Books for Young Readers, 1993

Summer Blog Break

Posted July 7, 2022 by Cathy Stefanec Ogren
Categories: Summer Break

Tags: , , ,

It’s that time of year!

I interrupt this blog for breaking news. “Humor Me” is taking a summer blog break to relax and enjoy the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer. Look for the next post on August 11th when this blog returns to inform and entertain the masses!

More Picture Books to Add to Your Reading List

Posted June 30, 2022 by Cathy Stefanec Ogren
Categories: Picture Book Review

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What is home? It has different definitions for different people. Here is a look at books that describe a variety of homes.

Home

Wes and Claire, a brother and sister, use their imagination, art, and adventures as they live in their comfy Brown House. But when they have to leave their beloved home because of circumstances they can’t control, the family finds themselves homeless. They are on their way to nowhere, then somewhere, then anywhere as they desperately search for a place to stay. They end up living in a shelter where the family has the love of one another infused with hope and determination to find something better. When they finally are able to move into the Blue House, imagination, art, and adventure are alive once again, but they never forget where they have been and remember to help others in the same circumstances. A touching story that is ripe for discussion on why homelessness sometimes happens to people and how you can make the best of it.

Little Houses

A young girl visits Grandma and Grandpa’s little house close to the ocean where she and her grandma explore the beach. They search for shells of all colors, shapes, and sizes that wash ashore. They find empty little houses – the shells where their inhabitants no longer live. The little girl is filled with so many questions about the little houses, the shells, the rocks and stones, and the beach animals that she finds as she wanders around the beach. When the little girl returns home, she brings back empty little houses, good memories, and dreams of the many things she doesn’t know while looking for answers. This is a lovely book with illustrations created by the author’s wife.

Home: A Peek-Through Picture Book

A bear cub wanders out into the forest and gets to take a peek at a variety of animals building their homes. As night appears and winter nears, a pack of wolves is on the prowl for a tasty treat. The bear cub returns to his cave and the warmth of home for a long comfy sleep. This is an adorable peek-through rhyming book that kids will love as they learn about animal homes.

Celebrate Independence Day with this inspiring story that honors our nation’s flag.

30,000 Stitches: The Inspiring Story of the National 9/11 Flag

This is a book that will touch your heart as you read about how the 30-foot tattered flag that flew across from Ground Zero after the 9/11 attack on the United States was restored. The flag was put into storage, but in 2008, it was brought back out. It was lovingly restored by citizens from different walks of life as it traveled to all fifty states. Pieces of flags of historical importance from each state were used to repair the torn flag. It was an act of patriotism that displayed the true fabric of America – our home. A must-read!

Picture Books You’ll Like

Posted June 23, 2022 by Cathy Stefanec Ogren
Categories: Picture Books

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Here are a few of the books I’ve enjoyed during the month of June. See what you think.

Viking in Love

Stig is a Viking who is afraid of the sea. One day, he sees Ingrid, a fearless Viking with the sweetest voice he’s ever heard. Before he can say anything, the sea sweeps her away. Stig is in love. He writes a mushy love note to Ingrid and waits, and waits, and waits on the beach to see her. When he finally sees her, she’s too far away. He tries everything to reach her, but nothing works. There is only one thing left to do – venture into the sea. GASP! He finds a floaty and begins his journey to his love. It does not go well. Will Stig and Ingrid end up together? You’ll have to read this book about love, persistence, and overcoming fears to find out. 

Knight Owl

The day he is born, Owl knows he wants to become a knight – brave and clever. When knights begin disappearing from the castle, Owl applies to Knight School and is accepted. He is a good student, but because of his size, he has difficulty with his sword and shield. He graduates and is assigned to the Knight Night Watch. Other knights tend to fall asleep, but not Owl. He is perfect for the job. All goes well until he comes beak to snout with a hungry dragon who is looking for a snack. Being not only brave but clever, Owl outwits the dragon. Knights stop disappearing from the castle, and Owl is happy at his Knight Owl post with Dragon as his friend. This is a sweet book about following your dreams. 

Wild for Winnie

Winnie is not an ordinary classmate. She doesn’t quite fit in. Winnie does things that might be considered inappropriate in class. The teacher understands and suggests that the class give her a chance. For one week, the teacher guides the class with activities that help make Winnie feel more comfortable during the day. By the end of the week, everyone sees Winnie and their world a bit differently. Back matter has calming activities that can help kids who have difficulty settling down. Kudos to teachers who have the patience and wisdom to help all children fit in.

A Good Place

A bee, ladybug, beetle, and dragonfly are looking for a good place to live. They try and try, but they can’t find that special place. When they think they’ll never find a home, a butterfly surprises them with a perfect place. Vibrant colorful scenes add to the fun of this book.

Milk and Juice A Recycling Romance

Juice and Milk fall in love while in the refrigerator. But when Juice is empty, Juice ends up at the recycling center and is devastated. Juice keeps getting recycled into different bottles all while looking for Milk. True love is gone and Juice is in despair. After being recycled for a final time, who does Juice find? Milk! Juice and Milk are as close as ever. They have been recycled into a park bench – never to be parted again. A fun book about recycling with back matter to go along with it. 

Look for more delightful picture books next week.


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